The increasing popularity of Steampunk jewelry and crafts has created a demand for antique typewriter keys. "Steampunk" refers to a subgenre of literature influenced by the Victorian period of the 19th century, when machines were often powered by steam. Steampunk fashion incorporates recycled objects from that era. Antique typewriter keys, a popular item in steampunk jewelry design, can be found for sale at online auction sites and craft supply stores. Recycle your own typewriter keys from old machines salvaged from flea markets and bazaars.
Wrap a piece of cloth around the typewriter key so that it is completely covered. The cloth will help to protect the key from scratches and scuff marks. It also provides a nonslick surface for better contact between the key and pliers.
Grip the key with the needle-nose pliers. Avoid using excessive force. Some antique typewriter keys have glass tops or may be constructed with plastics that have become brittle with age. For good leverage, grip the key close to the middle where the key meets the metal base.
Pull straight up on the key to separate it from the key base. The key should detach from the base without too much effort. If the key refuses to budge, it may have become sealed to the base by spilled liquids or grime. Use the pliers to grip key. Turn the key slightly to the left and right, in a gentle rocking motion, to loosen it from the base. Lift up on the key until it slips free.
For keys that are especially difficult to remove, use tinners' snips to cut the key from the base. Cut close to the edge of the key where it meets the base. Use pliers to remove the metal nub of the base left attached to the back of the key or use a metal file to create a smooth finish.